Life and Health

Can We Improve the World for Our Children?

White women, we must wake up. Hear me out, read to the end, and if you now hate me or think I’m wrong that’s fine but please don’t check out just because I am telling you to wake up.

I am one of you — a suburban, college educated, home-owning, karate parent (ok, not a “soccer mom” but that’s the closest I can get). I know the number of pressures we are feeling — obligations to our families, both immediate and extended, the stress of the economy, the fear of the world our children are growing up in and don’t forget the constant barrage of people telling us to take care of ourselves.

There doesn’t often seem like enough money in the bank account, time in the day, or energy in our bodies to handle it all. However, these crises have been going on for decades and they are coming to a head because corporate greed has consistently been placed before you and your families. Bottom lines have been growing to epic proportions that have continued to edge out our solidly middle class living — it has not been anyone other than corporate profits and making money for boards and shareholders that have created the world we are struggling so hard to live in.

Remember when living on one income didn’t seem like a crazy idea? Not that I personally would make a great stay at home mom, and I don’t want to be one, but if you do that life can feel so out of reach. Look at what’s been happening to local stores — small businesses that spend MOST of their money back in the community they live in have been edged out by corporate retailers and franchises because the local guy can’t keep up. But this isn’t about the economy — or I should say this isn’t JUST about the economy.

The world is hurting, the world is on fire, and we generally keep voting for people who want to pour gasoline on the fire.

We have been on this precipice before as a culture, we used to be ok with children dying or being badly injured in factory accidents. We used to be ok with bosses making it impossible for employees to escape a fire (yes, that really happened, look up the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire).

We have been the pawns in other people’s games unless we the people, all the people, stood up against it. Children don’t die working (as often) and employees have basic rights because we stood up and fought the powers that be for those rights.

We can do it again; we can change the world if we stop being pawns in the game played by those who just want to tap us on the shoulder and run away.

The real “they” we should be fighting are the ones who don’t have ALL children’s best interests at heart. The ones who want children born but don’t want them fed, clothed, educated, or loved by the society they live in.

We should not be arguing with people, some of them have a smaller slice of the pie than we do, over who’s got more pie when corporations are bringing in record profits for their shareholders.

from “Corporate profits have contributed disproportionately to inflation. How should policymakers respond?” by Josh Bivens linked above

This isn’t new information and it’s very easy to search for who’s really winning the race right now and for the most part it isn’t any of us, but “they” want us to believe we’d win the race if the other guy wasn’t there.

This isn’t a zombie movie; you do not need to be the fastest to make it out alive (in the name of transparency if this WAS a zombie movie I’d kick someone in the knees to ensure I get away to fight another day).

Follow the money.

Who benefits from us fighting each other? Who benefits by keeping everyone else scrambling over the left overs?

Don’t play into the fears. We have been through this all before but the “mine” mentality has never been the savior when we’ve been in this position. During World War II, when the government needed more resources to fight the fascists, what did we do as a society?

We gave up our nylons, we tended victory gardens, we rationed milk, eggs, and butter. Do you think the allies won WWII without our support and banding together? Did the “mine” mentality beat the Nazis?

Do you think it’s going to beat the Nazis now? There are Nazis and a million other groups who are so afraid of losing the power that they tenuously hold now that they are willing to attempt to overthrow the government to keep it instead of being able to see that we can all be part of the brilliant future, a future made of a million different threads.

“A rising tide raises all boats,” I’ve heard from people still thinking trickle down economics works (newsflash, it doesn’t and hasn’t ever worked) but if that’s the case then let’s work to raise the boats for as many people as possible because it will then raise the boats for everyone.

We have the power to protect our children and to make workplaces and communities safe; we’ve done it before. We have the power, as white women, to help make decisions that protect all children and show all children that they are loved and cared for regardless of their circumstances. If the other 6-year-old children in my daughter’s first grade class feel as safe, stable, and loved as she does, imagine the world she would live in as an adult?

As I tell my daughter often, a lot of times hurt people then hurt people. We can’t make hurt people feel better by hurting them back, hurting others, or ourselves. It takes a lot to step back and act from a place of love and empathy. People are telling us they are hurting; people are telling us that we are doing the hurting (or maybe in some cases just not helping); step back and examine yourself to see where that could be the case. I am not perfect, and I don’t believe anyone is asking for perfection, but if we can all do a little something better it will push the needle in the right direction.

Photo by Liane Metzler on Unsplash

Don’t just fight for your kid to be on the soccer team or for your kid to see themselves in books read at school — fight for all kids to be able to join the team or see themselves in media. Fight for all kids because those are the kids that your child is going to one day interact with as an adult.

In the immortal words of Whitney Houston:

“I believe the children are our future
 Teach them well and let them lead the way
 Show them all the beauty they possess inside
 Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
 Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be”

~Greatest Love of All

If you want to create a future for your kid, there must be a future for all the children on this planet and as white, suburban mothers we have the power to do that.

Life and Health

Rest This Holiday Season

The season has come crashing in like the old school Kool-Aid man; the holiday season is here. Whether we like it or not, it seems that the holiday season starts on November 1. I did see a meme the other day that indicated that the Holiday season runs November 1–23 and then picks up again November 26 until December 25 (or longer if you celebrate Three Kings Day).

Photo by Rodion Kutsaiev on Unsplash

On one hand, I can’t necessarily complain about the over commercialization of Christmas that overshadows the problematic history of the United States’ traditional Thanksgiving story. I feel like Thanksgiving needs a makeover in general; I think the ideals behind celebrating Thanksgiving are good: gratitude for family, friends, and what we have in our lives but not everyone has the same privileges and we’ve definitely arrived at those ideals through some sketchy historical shenanigans. There’s definitely a lot about our stories behind Thanksgiving that could use some transparency and updating but should this holiday be completely overrun by the Christmas onslaught that is already happening? It seems the Hocus Pocus crowd has already donned ugly sweaters and switched the pumpkin spice for peppermint mochas.

But what gets lost in the shuffle of this holiday changeover (so fast it gives you whiplash) is that the season is the reason for the season. I cringe whenever I see the “Christ is the reason for the season” or some such nonsense. The whole reason that this is the season of family, friends, rest, and gratitude is because it’s getting darker and darker out. Days are getting shorter, sunlight is lessening, and the ground can’t be used for planting.

Halloween, or Samhain, marks the end of the harvest season for individuals in areas that experience a winter. After Halloween, the world is going dormant from a biological perspective. When the hard work of planting and harvesting was completed, it was time to enjoy the time and rest, plan, and prepare for the next season.

Photo by James Padolsey on Unsplash

Days were shorter so people spent more time experiencing the community of each other and a chance to be grateful and hope to survive this treacherous time of constantly wondering “if it was enough?”

As a society, however, we have abandoned these rest phases and we are constantly working. It’s no wonder the feelings of burnout and stress are overwhelming, especially after having to “make up” for the past two years when things haven’t gone according to plan.

Yet instead of celebrating this season for what it is, we have over commercialized it and turned it into even more of a hustle with the parties and obligations, real or otherwise. We wonder why we are collectively struggling because we’ve stopped honoring the traditional rhythms of life. We were not meant to GO all the time.

All animals must stop and rest, we are no different.

This is not supposed to be a time of more stress but the obligations we impose on ourselves or feel imposed on us by society’s expectations are very real.

I remember when my daughter was born, all the “now you’re going to…” ideas that people thought would happen for the sake of memories. I refuse to fall victim to an overbooked calendar that leads me to feel more stressed and unhappy.

One of the “shoulds” that I don’t participate in is baking holiday cookies. I hate baking with a fiery passion so my solution is to buy a log of slice and bake sugar cookie dough, some sprinkles, frosting, and we go to town. My daughter’s favorite part is decorating the cookies anyway, but because I need to preserve my sanity I do it my own way.

Just yesterday my daughter asked if we could play “Find Rudolph” again. Rudolph happens to be a dollar store reindeer ornament that I hot glued a red pompom onto and then one day we hide it around the house to find and that’s what she remembers. She remembers us, together, laughing and having fun searching for this dollar store ornament around the house.

Many of the traps we fall into this season are a trick of marketing. You do not have to do anything you don’t want to do or anything that does not serve you/your family.

If you don’t want to get pictures with Santa, don’t do it.

If you don’t want to bake cookies, don’t do it.

If you don’t want to _________, don’t do it.

Pick and chose the things that are meaningful to you and your family. Come up with new traditions to celebrate the season. You don’t have to do this holiday season any other way than the way you want to do it.

You do not need to hold onto any tradition that doesn’t serve you or feel right. The whole point of this season is rest and reconnection to self and community after the work of the harvest. Reap the benefits of your hard work and remember to take a break.

Life and Health

4 Ways to Help Kids Grow

We give kids a lot less credit than they deserve. Society has trended towards more and more policing of children and their bodies in different ways in different spaces and it begs the question — how did we all survive when we were just released into the wilds on bikes and told to come home when the streetlights come on? In “Stranger Things” you see the kids ride off onto their bikes saving Hawkins from untold supernatural bad guys; but in today’s day and age most children aren’t given that level of freedom and autonomy to save the world.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Society bemoans the “millennial” who can’t do anything for themselves but look at what has happened to the way we raise children since I was born; I am what people would refer to the oldest of the elder millennials or the youngest of the Gen Xers (no one can quite figure us out) and how children’s lives are structured and how they are raised by the village in today’s society feels vastly different than how I was raised.

All in all, I think my parents did an excellent job. Of course, in retrospect there are things I wish had gone differently growing up, on both their and my parts but ultimately they did the best job they could with the information they had and thus created me — some might point out my character flaws and think they could have tamed them but ultimately I think they molded me the best way they could — but I digress.

This is not to say that we need to revert back to the “good ol’ days” because as Billy Joel tells us “the good old days aren’t always good” but I think there are definitely some lessons that we need to look at because through our words and actions we are constantly telling kids that they aren’t capable and adults need to handle everything for them — but we’ve been having children and surviving as a species for almost 200,000 years and if all our history has taught us anything kids aren’t as fragile as we make them out to be. We need to stop treating kids like they aren’t intelligent, aware, and conscious human beings.

We are meant to be their teachers (regardless of your position in their lives, if you come in contact with a child you are one of their teachers) but we are not meant to be their dictators.

Some ways I have found that help build up this in my own child –

1. Get her to order for herself at restaurants. From a very young age, I had my daughter talking directly to the waitstaff. It started out with her repeating what I/my husband were saying and then it grew to her asking directly for what she wants. Sometimes the waitstaff looks at me expecting me to order and I just say “tell them what you want” and she does it. Why? Because it’s her food. I’m not eating it and I don’t need to be her mouthpiece. When we went to get her ears pierced at the local tattoo shop (PSA — if you don’t know take your kids to get their ears pierced at a tattoo or piercing shop; not the gun at the mall!) and the piercer was very impressed with how she could tell him exactly what she wanted and her level of self-advocacy at 6 years old, exclaiming that he’s had 12-year-olds that can’t speak as freely as she does.

2. Let them have unstructured and unsupervised play time. I think this is the thing that has changed the most drastically over the past three or four decades. Children are not allowed or expected to be off doing their own thing without adult supervision. This is where critical thinking and problem solving skills are fostered; through free and unstructured play children learn their own boundaries and limits. I am not a “free-range” parent but I let my daughter range on the block with other kids. We did have to buy a set of walkie-talkies so we could communicate because sometimes she’ll bounce from house to house and it took a little extra to track her down so these allow us to check in, call her home for dinner, or whatever but we allow her the chance to experience life without an adult managing it for her.

3. When they have a meltdown — let them. We cannot manage all the emotional ups and downs of life for ourselves so we definitely can’t micromanage our children’s emotional roller coasters. The best we can do is give them the techniques, be there for them, and when they’re ready, let them to come back to us. When my daughter is really upset I ask her if she’s hungry if I know she hasn’t eaten in a while (being a kid takes a lot of energy!) and then I offer a hug and if neither of those things helps her to regulate herself I’ll tell her to come talk to me when she’s ready. We need to let them walk the walk of difficult emotions. No one likes them and they don’t always feel good but working through them allow us to grow through them.

4. Have tough conversations with them. We’ve had to discuss why we don’t put on blackface, prison, death, periods, miscarriage, differently abled people, different family structures, and a myriad of other things considering that she is just 6 years old. They can handle topics that sometimes we’d rather not talk about. These are part of their lives and if your child goes to school with others they will hear and experience things that we do not control so occasionally we have to have these discussions whether we want to or not. If you use age-appropriate language and examples, they can handle it better than you thought possible; usually better than most of us who have grown up shying away from tough conversations. And if all else fails, there is usually a book on amazon or at the library that can help you talk about anything that might come up.

Bottom line is that children are more capable and do not need to be shielded from the realities of the world. If anything, this shielding hurts them in the long run; we should be the soft place to land when things go wrong or get difficult. 

Things will go wrong, they will get difficult, and children don’t need platitudes or sugar coating — they need adults who will face the tough things as the wind at their back helping them move forward and not the bulldozer plowing the field in front of them. 

If the demogorgan came to your town, could your kid help save the day?